SAHRC court case seeks Green Light for all Illegal Land Invasions

12 JULY 2020

STATEMENT BY THE EXECUTIVE MAYOR, ALDERMAN DAN PLATO

SAHRC court case seeks Green Light for all Illegal Land Invasions

It is with concern that I have noted the application by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and Legal Resources Centre (LRC) to interdict the City of Cape Town from carrying out any and all anti-land invasion operations during the national lockdown.

We have opposed the matter, which will be heard in court on Wednesday.

The National Government has made it clear that while evictions are not allowed during the lockdown, all municipalities have a duty to prevent the illegal invasion of land and to carry out counter-spoliation operations. We have always adhered to the directives regarding evictions and our actions are only directed at preventing land invasions during this period.

Should municipalities be prevented from protecting vacant land from illegal land invasions, we could overnight lose every open patch of land – including privately-owned, State-owned, public parks and sidewalks across the city. 

The City has already lost 357 hectares of land (the equivalent of 200 football fields) in the last two years due to illegal land invasions – delaying services that should have been provided, pushing law-abiding citizens aside on housing waiting lists, and causing havoc with budgets that can no longer be spent. Compounding the problem is that these new informal settlements soon begin to demand services from government. When services can’t be delivered for a variety of reasons, (such as location on a flood plain or private land), the residents protest and burn nearby existing government infrastructure, further compounding the financial pressures placed on local governments with already stretched budgets.

The SAHRC and LRC want the City to go through the arduous and lengthy process of obtaining a court order each time before carrying out a basic anti-land invasion operation – a process they know will take too long to allow us to actually prevent any land invasions.

The applicants further seek the voiding of existing court orders protecting specific sites from invasion. This would impact, for example, the court order protecting the land that was illegally invaded in Khayelitsha due to it being part of a R162 million water infrastructure project aimed at connecting thousands of Khayelitsha residents with high pressure water access.

The pipeline is being built as we speak, and near daily anti-land invasion operations are necessary to keep it on track, for the sake of growth and development in Khayelitsha as a whole.  

While we have accepted that some seemingly politically motivated NGOs cannot be reasoned with, we had hoped that a once reputable organisation like the SAHRC was still capable of sound reasoning and logic. Sadly, they now seem to be driven primarily by politics.

The City is ready to contest this matter on behalf of the many thousands of silent victims bearing the brunt of land invasions, whether it be because of land lost for housing or services, or the pollution of our waterways due to uncontrolled development, or the deserving beneficiaries who get queue-jumped by land invaders.

The rights of people impacted by land invasion have been forgotten by the Human Rights Commission, but these residents can rest assured their City will continue fighting for them.

End

Issued by: Media Office, City of Cape Town

Media enquiries: Greg Wagner, Spokesperson to the Executive Mayor, Tel: 021 400 9459, Cell: 072 623 4499, Email: Greg.wagner@capetown.gov.za (please always copy media.account@capetown.gov.za)